American recipes/ Dinner/ Italian recipes/ One-pot recipes/ Oven dishes/ Pasta/ Vegetarian

Mac & Cheese with Kale & Smokey Bacon

30 November 2023

Gooey, cheesy, savoury, comforting mac & cheese with a little healthy (and very tasty) extra addition of kale, such a great combination! I added smokey bacon for extra flavour, but if you’d rather keep it vegetarian then you could also add gorgonzola. Mmmmm. For the cheeses I used mozzarella, boeren belegen cheese (regular Dutch cheese) and parmesan. I also added ricotta because I had some left in the fridge but you can leave it out if you feel you have enough cheese 😉 (but do you ever have enough cheese?) All these cheeses melted into a mustardy béchamel sauce. Sooooo Cheesy!

Another + for this recipe? While it’s in the oven you can clean the kitchen and be done for the night, all you have to do is chill out and eat pasta, my kind of evening 😉

Mac & Cheese with Kale & Smokey Bacon

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
dinner American, Italian
By Saffron Serves: 4
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cooking Time: 20 minutes in oven, 20 minutes on stove Total Time: 40 minutes


  • 250 g smokey bacon, chopped to your liking (optional, see notes)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 small leek, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cup white wine (optional)
  • 500 ml full fat milk
  • 150 g grated mozzarella
  • 150 g regular grated cheese, like Boeren belegen or cheddar
  • 100 g parmesan, finely grated
  • 125 g ricotta (optional see notes)
  • 1-2 ts dijon mustard, to taste
  • Grated nutmeg, to taste
  • Pepper & Salt, to taste
  • 300 g kale, hard stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 200 g pasta of choice, I used Pipe Rigate (small pasta shells)



Preheat the oven to 200°C.


Cook the pasta according to the packaging, 2 minutes less than the description, drain and add a bit of olive oil to stop it sticking. Set aside.


In a heavy based dry pan add the bacon and fry until crispy and browned, remove from the pan, incl the fat, and set aside.


To the same pan add some olive oil and the onions, sauté for 2-3 minutes until translucent and fragrant.


Add the garlic and the leeks and sauté on medium heat until everything is softened, ± 5 minutes.


Scoop in the flour and stir well to coat the onion & leek mix. Keep stirring so it doesn't burn, ± 1 minute.


Deglaze then pan with the wine (if not using, use a splash of water) making sure to scrape all the goodness from the bottom of the pan. Let bubble away for a minute or 2 to let the alcohol evaporate.


Now slowly pour in a splash of milk while you keep stirring with a whisk. Once the milk has been absorbed, slowly add the rest of the milk while you keep stirring to get rid of the flour lumps. Let it bubble away on low heat to thicken, ± 5-6 minutes.


Grate in the nutmeg, add the dijon mustard and black pepper. Stir to mix well. Taste and add more of these if needed, don't add salt yet (you're still going to add the bacon and cheese).


Add all the cheeses, leaving about 1 cup total of mozzarella and cheddar behind to sprinkle on the top at the end.


Turn the heat off and let the cheese melt, taste and season with salt to your liking.


Add the chopped kale and mix well until coated, then add the pasta and the bacon and mix well again.


Pour it all into a baking dish or oven proof skillet and sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top.


Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden and bubbling.


  • If you'd like to keep it vegetarian you can just leave out the bacon, if you'd like some extra salty notes, add some gorgonzola.
  • I added ricotta because I had some left in the fridge but you can leave it out if you feel you have enough cheese 😉 (but do you ever have enough cheese?)

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